Orzhov Syndicate

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Orzhov Syndicate
Orzhov Logo.png
Alternative Names
Church of Deals
Lore Information
Parun Obzedat
Guild Leader Obzedat (deceased)
Kaya (formerly)
Current incumbent unknown (possibly Tomik or Teysa)
Guild Champion Teysa Karlov
Guild Hall Orzhova
Game Information
Colors {W}{B}
Mechanics Haunt
(Ravnica Allegiance)
Featured Sets
Ravnica Allegiance
Signet Flavor Text
"The form of the sigil is just as important as the sigil itself. If its carried on a medallion, its bearer is a master. If its tattooed on the body, its bearer is a slave." — Orzhov Signet
Scryfall Search

The Orzhov Syndicate is the white/black guild from the plane and city of Ravnica. Introduced in Guildpact, the guild is also featured in Gatecrash and Ravnica Allegiance.

Orzhov basic lands from Ravnica Allegiance

Background[edit | edit source]

The Orzhov Syndicate is the Ravnican guild of business, where the values of white and black meet and the dead exist solely to rule. Nearly every business in Ravnica ties back to the Orzhov in some way or another. While they bear the facade of a religious group and may have been a true faith at the signing of the Guildpact, they now worship only profit and power.

The Orzhov guild is founded on the beliefs that wealth is power, that structure breeds wealth, and that guilt creates structure. The guild is a combination of a religion, credit-lending agency, and crime syndicate. An ostentatious hierarchy of priests, enforcers, and ghostly councilors rules over a congregation of guilt-bound loyalists, indebted ghosts, and thrull servants. Should somebody be in debt to them, that person must work off their debt even beyond death. Many Orzhov guild members believe that their actions are necessary for making Ravnica the best it can be, and they are unscrupulous in their methods of seizing power. Most Ravnicans see the Orzhov as a corrupt organization, but many are attracted by promises of wealth, prestige, and longevity.

Their white flavor is exemplified by how they have a strong sense of tradition and community, reflected by the fact that they still partake in all of their ancient rituals and customs despite not worshiping any gods. It is also symbolized in how they hoard their wealth, but are shown to share with family members or close friends. Their black flavor can be seen in that they regularly deal with the dead, they never give to charity if they can help it, and continually violate the spirit of the law merely to meet their own ends. The Orzhov know also how to create thrulls out of remnants of past debtors.

Hierarchy[edit | edit source]

The Syndicate used to be presided over by a council of ghosts, the Obzedat, in Orzhova, the Church of Deals.[1] Below the obzedat stood the olicharchs, elite families who have belonged to the Orzhov for generations, and the pontiffs (executive managers).[2] Ministrants are the priests and practitioners of Orzhov's religion. This is the highest position anyone can hope to obtain without being born within the guild. On the same level stand the knights. who provide the muscle for collecting money on time and in an orderly fashion. The lowermost position in the guild is taken by the syndics (attorneys, advisors, accountants, couriers etc.). Borrowers are not part of the guild, but they can't escape their debt even after their death.

The Cartels[edit | edit source]

Reporting to the Obzedat is a web of competing cartels, which are the individually operating units of the Orzhov Syndicate.[3] Each cartel claims different territories and markets across Ravnica, and each has its own internal hierarchy of priests, advokists (lawmages), enforcers, and others. Each cartel is ruled by a cardinal or kingpin whose role is somewhere between gang leader, bank manager, and high priest.

Long lived[edit | edit source]

The high-ranking members of the Orzhov use magical means to extend their lives, but are mutated in many ways that they pass on to their offspring. For example, one of Teysa Karlov's legs is practically useless, and therefore she has been forced to use a walking cane since she learned to walk. Members of the Obzedat were called the Deathless, as they had managed to cheat mortality, maintaining their consciousness (and their greed) beyond the threshold of death.[3] Most of the Deathless appeared as morbidly obese high priests or nobles, but sickly, pale, and ghostly in form. They craved wealth, respect, and loyalty.

Under the influence of Bolas[edit | edit source]

To boost their declining profits in an unstable economy, the Orzhov have begun offering "protection services", promising to shield their customers both from physical harm and fiscal disaster, with the underlying threat that those who refuse to pay will become targets of Orzhov's own thugs and enforcers.[2] Lately, the planeswalker Kaya has taken control as guildmaster of Orzhov after taking down the Obzedat. She has done this at the behest of Nicol Bolas, in exchange for him helping her "troubled family".[2] Despite Teysa warning against it, Kaya freed many people from the debts they owed the guild, particularly the bound ghosts. Kaya raised the Orzhov's existing tithes from 10% to 40% to compensate for the losses caused by forgiving those debts, which quickly led to riots. Azorius forces quelled the immediate unrest, and Kaya brought the tithes down to 18%.

Internal struggle[edit | edit source]

Kaya and Teysa attended the guild summit on behalf of the Orzhov, and witnessed its dissolution after the murder of Isperia.[4] Afterwards, Kaya helped Ral Zarek engage the Golgari, to conquer a location that was needed for his manipulation of the Implicit Maze.[5] During the attack, she was almost killed by one her own priests who called her a traitor.[6] As he returned to Orzhova, she found that the hierarchs had pressured Teysa to arrest her. With the help of Tomik Vrona she discovered that all the hierarchs owned debts to the true heir of Patriarch Karlov. She turned the tables, had Teysa arrested and offered the hierarchs a deal.[7]

War of the Spark[edit | edit source]

At some point, Kaya became aware of Bolas' treacherous nature and defected from him. In preparation of Bolas' invasion of Ravnica, Kaya joined forces with Ral Zarek. Ral activated the Interplanar Beacon to bring other planeswalkers to Ravnica for help, but it turned out that was exactly what Bolas was counting on. Once the Beacon was active, Bolas brought the Immortal Sun to Ravnica, trapping the planeswalkers there.

Kaya appealed to the Orzhov elites. Despite their disdain for her (due to her policy of forgiving debts and raising taxes), they reluctantly agreed to help her in the fight against Bolas.

After the War[edit | edit source]

After the battle, Kaya was removed from her position, and the advokist Tomik Vrona represented the Orzhov when Niv-Mizzet convened a meeting of guildmasters. The rule over the Syndicate fell to Matriarch Teysa Karlov and the triumvirate, consisting of the human pontiff Armin Morov, the vampire tithe-master Slavomir Zoltan, and the angel warrior-executioner Maladola.[8]

In the game[edit | edit source]

Guild mechanics[edit | edit source]

Guildpact: Haunt[edit | edit source]

The Orzhov game mechanic is "haunt": when a card with haunt would be put into a graveyard, it is removed from the game "haunting" a creature. When that creature is put into the graveyard, the controller of the card with the haunt effect gets the card's effect a second time.[9]

Gatecrash: Extort[edit | edit source]

The Orzhov game mechanic in Gatecrash is Extort, which, in the reminder text, reads "Whenever you cast a spell, you may pay {W/B}. If you do, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain life equal to the total life lost this way."[10][11]

Ravnica Allegiance: Afterlife[edit | edit source]

The Orzhov game mechanic in Ravnica Allegiance is Afterlife X. When a creature card with Afterlife dies, the controller creates a number of 1/1 white and black Spirit creature token with flying equal to the value of X.

Creature types[edit | edit source]

Species and races[edit | edit source]

Species and races associated with the Orzhov Syndicate include:

Classes[edit | edit source]

Notable members[edit | edit source]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Magic Arcana (March 27, 2006). "Guildpact style guide: Orzhov". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b c d James Wyatt (January 2019). "The Art of Magic: The Gathering - Ravnica" . Wizards of the Coast
  3. a b The Magic Creative Team (December 12, 2012). "Planeswalker's Guide to Gatecrash: Part 2". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Django Wexler (August 14, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Ten.
  5. Django Wexler (August 28, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Twelve.
  6. Django Wexler (September 11, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Fourteen.
  7. a b c d e Django Wexler (September 18, 2019), The Gathering Storm, Chapter Fifteen.
  8. Greg Weisman (May 22, 2019). "War of the Spark: Ravnica – Rallying the Reluctant". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Aaron Forsythe (March 31, 2006). "Losing My Religion". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Mark Rosewater (March 25, 2013). "Designing for Orzhov". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Billy Moreno (March 29, 2013). "Developing Orzhov". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Magic Arcana (March 30, 2006). "Sketches: Blind Hunter". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Magic Arcana (March 23, 2006). "The Orzhov Soldier". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.

External links[edit | edit source]